If they can be efficient, look out. But that’s if the details are minded. If Nebraska can execute the offense the way head coach Scott Frost wants, he sees something dangerous brewing.
“We’ve got enough talent on offense, if we execute, to be really good and dangerous,” he said Friday. “Sometimes, first year in a system, it takes a while to get there but this group has picked it up pretty quickly.”
Don’t turn it over, run a new system smoothly against elite defenses, those are a lot of ifs. And Nebraska still has a question mark at the quarterback spot after Friday’s scrimmage. Frost says the “sky’s the limit,” but that quarterback position will ultimately be the deciding factor in whether the offense reaches its potential in Year 1.
“We have enough weapons on offense, I think, that if we have a quarterback play well and efficiently and get the ball to the right guy on time we can be pretty dangerous on offense,” he said. “The other big key is we’re going to have to take care of the ball and not turn it over. We had a couple of those today that I didn’t like.”
During the scrimmage, Frost said defensive coordinator Erik Chinander called plays the way he would on Saturday. “Some of the pressures and movement and stuff got the best of us on offense,” Frost said. Once Chinander dialed it back a bit and the two sides settled in, Frost said the offense strung some good drives together. Mostly, it has been back-and-forth throughout camp when it comes to who’s beating up on who.
“It’s been great to watch the last three practices before the scrimmage because when the offense executes right, they get the best of the defense some and on other plays it doesn’t get out of the backfield,” he said. “So, I think it’s been a give and take and that’s what you want if both sides are improving.”
Frost sees the improvement. He called this scrimmage, the second of fall camp, better than the first. The team is starting to click at times and at others it's coming up just short. Ultimately, Frost wants consistency.
“Execution is starting to get better on both sides,” he said. “I think their understanding of the schemes is getting better, their mastery of the technique is getting better. We’re still making mistakes. Offensively, the last three practices before this one our tempo has been hot, it’s been great. We got out on the field in the scrimmage and that kind of slowed down. The attacking on defense has been really good for three days and we got out in the scrimmage, live, and it wasn’t quite where we want it to be.
“It’s just a matter of taking the practices reps and the techniques to the field and falling back on our training from practice.”
Asked where the team is now, with two weeks left before the season opener, and where it needs to go in that time, Frost had an optimistic outlook.
“I know we’re better. We’re a lot better than we were in the spring. We’re miles ahead of where we were in January,” he said. “Now, how much we’ve caught up to some of the teams we’re going to play this year, I don’t know. I won’t know that until we get on the field and get an opportunity to compete and see where we are. But I know we’ve made a ton of progress and I can’t wait to test it out.”
Other News and Notes
>> Frost really likes Nebraska’s running back room. He said Friday that the team could play three or four backs at a time this season depending on situation and health.
“Running back room has sorted itself out real well. The whole group has really improved,” he said. “I feel like we have really good depth there. [Devine] Ozigbo is a lot better than he was last year. Greg Bell has come in and done some good things. Maurice Washington has done some special things. Wyatt Mazour has done good things, [Mikale] Wilbon has done good things, Jaylin Bradley.”
Frost said Tre Bryant has a minor ankle sprain that has slowed him a bit the last few practices but “he’s pretty special when he has the ball in his hands.”
>> One of the deepest spots on the defense is at safety. The Huskers have a returning starter in Aaron Williams and a Central Florida starter from last year’s team in Tre Neal, an experienced Antonio Reed and junior college transfer Deontai Williams all pushing for snaps. Asked how that position would shake out in terms of snap distribution, Frost said they would ideally use two guys for the bulk of snaps, with reserves switching in as needed.
“Our ideal situation on defense would be to have two guys we trust and play them both at every position,” he said. “When we’re at our best on defense, it’s almost like hockey lines coming onto the field with another group of guys that we can trust.”
As it relates to the secondary as a whole, Frost said that was “one of my big concerns coming into the fall,” but that the group has done a nice job through two weeks.
“The four freshmen we brought in have a lot of potential and getting some transfers in has helped us a bunch,” he said. “The depth there has changed and the competition there I think has led a lot of the guys that have been here to play better.”
>> The Huskers will begin making depth chart decisions this weekend, Frost said. Prep for Akron will begin the week of the game like normal, but Frost would also like to get a few “bonus days” in the Friday and Saturday before.
>> Last year, Nebraska’s defense was 116th in rushing S&P+ and 128th in rushing success rate. Asked how that unit was looking against the run through camp, Frost seemed pleased.
“Our defense is pretty good at stopping the run,” he said. “Half of playing defense is getting hats to the ball. Most of the big plays you see in football happen because there’s only one defender there and if you make that guy miss it turns into a big play.
“Our guys are starting to understand how to hustle to the ball and get a lot of hats around it. That’s how turnovers are created and that’s how you prevent big plays. It’s getting better.”
>> Husker coaches are putting a major emphasis on special teams participation this season. Running backs coach Ryan Held said a guy’s participation on special teams could be a determining factor in which guys travel for road games and who stays home. Frost said Friday they’ve had guys embrace that.
“It’s great to see we have some guys that are selling out for those roles. That’s what you need,” he said. “We need our starters to play on one or two special teams and understand the importance of it, but we also need some guys who are dedicated to that and become great special teams players and some of those guys are starting to emerge.”
>> There were quite a few former players on hand to watch the Huskers scrimmage Friday. That comes on the heels of two former Blackshirts meeting with the team last week. It’s important to Frost to keep those guys around the program.
Got some familiar faces in the house.
— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) August 17, 2018
“When you’re a part of this Nebraska brotherhood, you’re not just playing for yourself or your team, you’re playing for all the guys that came before and after you,” he said. “I want that connection to be back.”
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.